Tuesday, 26 April 2011

RIP Poly Styrene

"Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard,
but I think, 'Oh bondage, up yours!'"

Poly Styrene

I was very sad to  hear that Poly Styrene, the front woman of ground-breaking punk band X-Ray Spex died yesterday aged fifty three after a battle with cancer.  I was due to interview Poly for the blog but sadly we didn't get a date confirmed in time.

I grew up in London playing her music, I absolutely loved punk and my favourites were Identity, Germ Free Adolescents and Oh Bondage Up Yours. I used to drive my parents mad blasting it out at full volume.

Poly, whose real name was Marianne Elliott-Said released a new album Generation Indigo only last month.  She had disappeared from the spotlight for many years after becoming a Hare Krishna devotee in 1983 although she came back for the occasional live performance.

Photograph © Falcon Stuart

Born in Bromley, South East London, famous for many of punk's biggest characters including Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, Billy Idol, Adam Ant, Jordan, Philip Sallon, Bertie 'Berlin' Marshall and Soo Catwoman.  Her father was a deposed Somalian aristocrat and her mother was an English legal secretary.  The singer ran away from home at fifteen to hitch around all the music festivals.  Her distinctive fashion style and braces on her teeth created an unforgettable look and won her many fans.

Photography by Mike Putland
Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Viv Albertine, Poly Styrene and Pauline Black, London 1980

Poly had many ups and downs - she was mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia which was eventually confirmed as bi-polar disorder in 1991, she even survived being hit by a fire engine.

Spending her final days in a hospice in St Leonards-On-Sea, East Sussex, her breast cancer had spread to her spine and lungs before it was diagnosed.

In a recent BBC Radio 6 interview she spoke optimistically about her battle with cancer "I'm doing everything I can to fight it.  I'm taking herbal medicines, homeopathy and conventional medicines.  I'm attacking it from all angles.  Touch wood, I'll make it."

Carol Channing, Poly Styrene and Jackie Collins at Women of the Year Awards

A statement announcing her death said "We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go to higher places."

There's a lovely piece from the Independent - My Secret Life - read it  HERE

My friend Princess Julia interviewed Poly for Clash magazine in March, read it HERE

These songs are a big part of the soundtrack to my youth

Photography by Ian Dickson
Poly Styrene c. 1978

Photography by Nazarin Montag

"You remember that song Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be,
the future's not ours to see?  I've always felt that.
 It's been a roller coaster ride,
but I wouldn't change a thing"

Poly Styrene

RIP Poly Styrene, a true individual xxx


YvonneSedition said...

Thanks for posting this, it's a lovely tribute to her. It's such sad news, she's been one of my heroines for years too xx

West Hollywood Voyeur said...

I used to play Oh Bondage Up Yours all the time!
Now I know what happened to her- HEAVEN.


Tabitha said...

That was my formative era too, I loved her music. I used to get the bus down to London to go clubbing, from Glasgow! Ah, age is catching up with us all.

Alison Cross said...

I love that statement that was put out, about 'winning' the battle to go on to better. I really, really like that.

I didn't much listen to X-Ray when younger, just the singles mainly.

Too damned young to die, too damned young.

Ali x

Smashingbird said...

What terribly sad news, soo young.

Fashionistable said...

Oh I hadn't heard, this is so sad. I hope her passing was peaceful. Thank You for letting me know. Xxxx

Vintage Vixen said...

Oh Christina, what a shame you never fgot to meet her. I hadn't heard about Polly's untimely death, I told Jon & it brought a tear to the old punk's eye. xxx

Christine @ Fash n Chips said...

This is a really lovely tribute to her!

And to answer the question you asked me on your blog: I live in Holland! near Rotterdam :)


MyStyle said...

Hi my dear-how very sad indeed, she certainly was a very inspirational lady and this is a wonderful tribute post, I love the pictures here and such a shame the interview didn't happen. Hope you are well and had a lovely Easter break, wishing you a good week ahead xxx

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Christina:
This is all very, very sad but a beautifully written tribute.

Make Do Style said...

Thank you for such a lovely piece. I was crushed when I found out she's died. I feel she shaped my attitude - with 'oh bondage up yours' and 'Identity'. I also annoyed my parents a lot with germ free adolescent!

I went to a talk a couple of years back by Pauline Black when she published her book about her life and talked about her time in the selector. I look for these women now and don't find them - they were amazing and never got the recognition they deserved.


Wildernesschic said...

So very sad and once again a reminder of our own mortality .. such a lovely tribute xx

Kim Bowen said...

What horrible news, I knew her and really liked her a lot. Terrible news.

CameronPoe2409 said...

53, that's no age to die! Lovely post. xx

Vintage Sparkle said...

I've been reading about her on Twitter all day and must confess to not knowing who she was so thank you for this blog post. She sounds like a wonderful woman and was far too young to die. May she rest in peace xx

richard said...

thank you-that was wonderful

dhorgan said...

I was lucky to spend time with Poly, my sister designed for her. I remember most her infectious giggle, and deep seated spirituality. I was a disaffected Punk, and even spent time at Bhaktivedanta Manor at her suggestion. She was an admirable woman. Krishna's angel... xx

Mondo said...

A great tribute to Poly - her mix of agit-pop, consumerism, synthetics and fashion was way ahead of it's time..

We're dedicating our next podcast: Never Mind the Monarchs (out tomorrow) to her

Ms. Moon said...

I have to admit- her life passed without me knowing a thing about her. But this was a beautiful tribute and if she was a part of your growing up, then I love her.
My favorite part was this quote:
"We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go to higher places."
Isn't that perfect?

michele said...

A worthy tribute indeed to such a talented woman. Her songs were such an inspiration. We spent hours playing the 45 of "....bondage..." over and over again when it first came out, then "...dayglo...." I think i was the only punk in los angeles with braces-a boy admitted his attraction to me at the time, saying i reminded him of her!

jeni said...

Darling Xtina,

What a lovely tribute!

Poly was a close family friend and I was in constant contact with her. I went to see her last month in Hastings and as always she was full of positive energy and laughter which came from her strong faith and spirituality. She was ever the optimist and told me she thought she was getting better. I was privilidged to share the stage with her in the 80"s & cherish my time with her. Like Ari Up she was too young to go so soon. These women made a deep impression that not many can imitate. True originals. Gone but never, ever forgotten.

Rest in peace Sweet Poly

La Dama said...

beautiful tribute!
what a shame,she was lovely and talented.

jeni said...


to dhorgan,

I lived with your sister in Regents Park and we saw a lot of Poly at that time. Poly asked me to get in touch with your sister so I wrote to her but am not sure she got it. I would like to make contact. If she would like to you can contact me through Christina.

Atlanta Roofing said...

Each one of these women inspired me in different ways. I liked Poly Styrene's optimism & her voice both her singing voice & her outlook on life. I admired Ari Up's ability to be true to herself and creative and productive all her life. It's sad that cancer would take both of them within such a short period of time.RIP Poly Styrene.

Bringing Pretty Back said...

What a beautiful and respectful tribute. Very touching. RIP Poly.

Helga! said...

She was pretty awesome.I love that song,O Bondage,Up Yours!
Ask and ye shall receive darl,I've changed my comments thingy to pop up window just for YOU!! It IS better,dunno why I hadn't done it earlier.Dumbass! (me!!!)
Lots a love,pretty lady!

dhorgan said...

jeni,message winging it's way to you via Christina.Please pass the Horgan families sympathies to Poly's family.Poly touched us all with her creativity, positivity, spirituality and sheer sense of fun. Dennis x

Kitty said...

thanks so much for posting this, I've always loved her and had no idea she had cancer. Sad news, in the way it's the end of an era.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

So sorry to read of this. What a drag.

I considered joining the Hare Krishnas in my youth, but then decided I don't look good with that short of hair. Almost no one does.

Love you,


That's Not My Age said...

Oh this is very sad - we've been away for a few days and so I hadn't heard the terrible news.